Loews Hotel Restaurant & Lounge

This is a review of the bar, not the hotel or the restaurant, although I did have some snacks that probably bridge the gap between menus.

The bar itself (pictured) is much nicer than the one in the Loews, Santa Monica, which isn’t hard to beat, but unto itself, the New York location has a nicely done, deco vibe. Service is warm and friendly as well. Not the liveliest of crowds, however, so if you’re looking for a scene, this ain’t it.

As for cocktails, I found the Manhattan a little too sweet for my tastes and so I quickly switched to my ole goto Blanton’s on the rocks.

Apps were money. My favs being the mini reubens and the French fries, which were surprisingly good, served up with two dipping options; a homemade ketchup marinana and a mayo mustard. The reason I say “surprising” is because I’m normally not a fan of homemade ketchups. They almost always suck. For me, it’s either Heinz or Annie’s or it’s mustard please. Don’t even get me started on Hunts. Also decent are the hummus with fried chickpeas, the charcuterie and the cheese plate.

Ultimately, I am happy I came to Loews (movie theater humor- though technically a different, unrelated Loews). Definitely not a destination unto itself, but if you’re staying in the hotel or meeting someone there you could do a lot worse. Particularly on the Upper East.

3 teeth

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The Writing Room

1703 2nd Ave. New York, NY 10128(212) 335-0075 • thewritingroomnyc.com

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If you happen to live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, let me apologize in advance, but what the fuck is wrong with you guys?! You’re bringing the rest of the city down. I mean hell, Brooklyn is killing you! The Lower East Side too! Even your Upper West Sibling across the park has their act together (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say it. From the 70’s on up, you are the shopping mall food court of New York City cuisine.

Let’s take The Writing Room as a recent an example. From the décor, it’s seemingly not so bad, right? Especially that warm and cozy back room with the fireplace and the old school typewriters (pictured). Makes you feel all Hemingway inside. But the whole right hemisphere of the restaurant is a boisterous, yuppie cesspool, filled with the right-out-of-college crowd, making you cringe at every “OMG!” and “DUDE!” that wafts over your table.

And then there’s the food. Starting with an attempt at parker house rolls that didn’t even best some of the school cafeterias I’ve eaten in, fear was on the march, goose-stepping across my tongue with a reign of tyranny in the form of a blasé cod brandade. I’m shocked that the waiter even recommended it, because the dish is so lacking that I honestly found the air I was breathing had more flavor in it.

Equally unimpressive was the kale salad, with roasted sweet potatoes and granny smith apples served with a cream-based bleu dressing that not only defeated the purpose of a kale salad, but was so bland that it also defeated the purpose of being a cream-based dressing!

The charcuterie board might’ve been only slightly better than the previous zeros, but it was the smoked chicken over a barley risotto with spinach and bacon that finally registered a pulse on the taste-o-meter. Sadly, however, it was too little to late, because by that point, we had already written off The Writing Room, a story that ideally should’ve never been published.

1 tooth

Rosa Mexicano

61 Columbus Ave. New York, NY 10023 • (212) 977-7700 • rosamexicano.com

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I’ve been going to Rosa for years. All three locations in the city, and multiple times at that. So I think it’s fair to say that we have some history together. And while there are many things I still love about Rosa, like any long-term relationship, we’ve had our rocky times as well.

The first time we met, I was instantly smitten by her fresh-made guacamole right there table-side. But this was back in the day before Dos Caminos and virtually every other Mexican joint copied them. Since then, however, I’ve learned a trick or two on how to spice things up, literally. Although the innuendo does work nicely. So, if you’re like me and you want more heat in your heat in your guac, you can ask them to double or even triple the chopped jalapeno count in the bowl. And if you’re into oral masochism, again like me, you can even ask that they go in the back and grab some habaneros instead, to give it more kick than a mule with a soccer fetish.

But man cannot live on guac alone, and fortunately Rosa does many other things very well. Some classics like empanadas, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and poblano dishes, and some with a modern twist, like their skirt steak sandwich on ciabatta with caramelized onions and cojita cheese or their incredible bunuelos served with chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces that make them even more ridiculously addictive than they already are (a borderline Ultimate Doughnut).

Sounds like a Hollywood romance, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t always that way. A while back at their Upper West-ish/Hell’s Kitchen location, I took my cousin and his fiance who were in town for a visit. And let’s just say Rosa treated us like mierda. First they made us wait at the bar for about 45 minutes for our table, and that’s with having a reservation. Fortunately, they have great drinks, but the bar was so over crowded it felt more like being on the subway at rush hour with a margarita in your hand.

Then, once seated, we naturally ordered the fresh made guac, and everything was going deliciously as always… That is, until the entrees came. When a few of us ordered the paella risotto, and while it was tasty for the first several bites, it was also filled with shards of PLASTIC!!! Yes, several bits of plastic were mixed all throughout the dish. And when we told the waiter, they literally did nothing about it! They didn’t comp a single dish. The manager didn’t even come over apologize. Nothing. And just like that they lost a customer for over almost a decade.

However, forgiveness is divine, as they say, and a few years back I decided to let Rosa back into my life. The one near Union Square. And slowly but surely, she earned my trust back and we have been together happily ever since… end scene.

3 teeth

 

Blanche’s Cafe

655 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10065 • (646) 919-4634

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Not that people still shop Donna Karan like they used to, but regardless, this is a nice little hidden gem upstairs inside the DKNY shop on Madison Avenue and unless you are willing to endure the cost, not to mention the wait, at Fred’s at the top of Barney’s, this is really one of the best things going in terms of affordable nourishment amidst the posh midtown shopping scene.

Everything is organic, vegetarian and delicious. From her incredible Peach smoothie to the veggie burger salad or sandwich- in either form it’s way good. But easy good. Nothing you couldn’t source from a Whole Foods and whip up yourself in about 10 minutes, but that’s also tough to do when you are knee deep in your dressing room, surrounded by shopping bags and you get the growlies. Are you gonna run back home and whip up lunch? No. No you’re not. So for an in-store beacon of convenience,  I highly recommend this oasis as a great pit stop during a grueling NYC shopping spree.

3 teeth

EJ’s Luncheonette

1271 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10021(212) 472-0600ejsluncheonette.com

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At one time EJ’s was a solid go-to for diner food at locations all around the city. Sporting one of the better veggie burgers (topped with guac and sprouts) in town and a respectable brunch that had people enduring two hour waits. This is no longer that time. In fact, even back in its hay day I was truthfully unimpressed, baffled by those willing to stand in line for such mediocrity when truly great diner food was only a few blocks up at Googies (RIP). But to give a currently open reference for comparison, it’s on par with Jackson Hole Diners and Stardust. Maybe a quarter of a notch above a Denny’s. Harsh? Perhaps. But truth be truth and there are literally 1000 better places for breakfast/brunch in the city, about 2000 better options for lunch and given adequate time I will eventually have all of them reviewed and posted for your perusal. But in the meantime, please go on trust and do as the police say at a crime scene, which this sort of is, “Keep walking. Nothing to see here!”

If, however, you are a glutton for punishment and are too squeamish to take up cutting, then by all means, enjoy everything from bogus burgers to pedestrian pancakes and forgettable French toast. In fact, not even the veggie burger is what it used to be. Which will go perfectly with your new regimen of self torture.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Guacamole

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When it comes to great guac, I have to admit I’m a bit of a priss. Okay, so I’m prissy in general as a rule, but only as it pertains to good food. As for the complexity or simplicity, I whole-heartedly appreciate both. But when it comes to guac, I have to say I kinda prefer the fuss. No simple old mashed up avocado will do for this cat, oh no, no, no. You gotta earn my lovin’ with a little magic in your mush. Below are three of my favorite magicians.

The Ninth Door – Denver, CO

This is the most inventive guac of the three, and more inventive than any I’ve ever seen before or since. It starts with an avocado cut in half, then they flash fry it with a little panko and fill the divot where the pit use to be with pico de gallo. The end result is so unforgettable you’ll hear Natalie Cole singing in your ears while your mouth and your eyes are still busy recovering from the rapture.

ABC Cocina – NY

Jean Georges always seems to find a way to take the basics and turn them into brilliance. From caprese salad to foie gras terrine to guac he really knows how to make you feel like you’re tasting something again for the first time. The dial here is a simple one, however, simply adding sunflower seeds to the green stuff and serving it up along side a wonderful grapefruit salsa and oversized, fresh-baked chips.

Rosa Mexicano – New York, NY

For the purists, I offer up the remarkably fresh, table-side prepared guac at Rosa. I’ve been to hordes of other places that try to do the same, but somehow it always pales by comparison. I’m not sure how or why, but whatever they’re doing, they manage to pull it off at every location too. Also, one of the things I love most about it is that they customize the heat. You like spicy, they throw in more jalapenos. You like crazy spicy, just ask for habaneros. That’s what I do and it’s guac-a-holy-mole!

Serendipity 3

225 E 60th St. New York, NY 10022(212) 838-3531serendipity3.com

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Two words: Frozen Hot Chocolate (pictured). Okay so that’s technically three words, but once you take a sip you won’t care because your lips will be pursed around that straw so tight you’d think you were trying to give it a hickey. And while some may discount it as a glorified chocolate milkshake I would argue that the absence of ice cream makes all the difference, making it icier and lighter than a shake. And while I could practically do a dissertation on the frozen hot chocolate itself, I will spare you, because there are other things worthy of mention at Serendipity as well.

For one, the décor. It has an eclectic, artistic vibe about it, mixed with a touch of shabby, a dash of Victorian and a pinch of bohemian. And I know some call it touristy, but I actually don’t find it to be so. It has been this way for ages. Way before the crowds started pouring in. It’s not like a cheesy theme restaurant in my opinion. I think people just chalk it up as such, now that it has become such a tourist attraction.

Speaking of attractions, the sandwiches are also pretty money. Both the Virginia Slim and the Summer Bries are terrific. The former is made with turkey and asparagus on wheat bread with Russian dressing and melted Jarlsberg. The latter is also turkey, but with, you guessed it, brie. And apples, sprouts and again Russian dressing (seem to have a thing for it here) set between slices of raisin pumpernickel.

So, here’s my advice. If you’re in town, shopping at Bloomingdale’s down the street, pop in here for lunch. And in the summer, be sure to get the frozen hot chocolate. Scratch that. Even if it’s 40 below outside get the frozen hot chocolate.

3 teeth

 

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Whitney Museum • 945 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10021(212) 570-3670untitledatthewhitney.com

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If you’re paying a visit to the Whitney Museum this makes for a nice, easy brunch before working your way up into priceless works of art on the floors above. It’s set on the garden level, which is a nice way of saying basement in New York City. But it’s not as dismal as that sounds. We were overlooking Jeff Koons sculptures on the veranda, so you could do worse as “gardens” go.

As for the service, it’s friendly and quick. But when it comes to the food, I would take many of the swooning reviews you see on Yelp with a sizable grain of salt. The cheesy scramble and the goat cheese, mushroom and asparagus omelet are both just adequate. What one might expect from a museum café. Granted the cheese grits are nice plus as a side.

The salmon tartine also doesn’t manage to wow either, but again, for a museum café it’s on par or slightly better than one might expect- granted it is a Danny Meyer museum restaurant.

That said, the French toast is quite the work of art. Best thing at the table by far. Made with a hint of citrus zest that ever so slightly brightens up the dish, taking it out of heavy-ville and planting firm roots in my-god-I-wish-I’d-ordered- that. Hence why I stole some from my 3 year old daughter. What? It says “ferocious,” not “fluffy” foodie.

3 teeth

Daniel

60 E 65th St. New York, NY 10065  (212) 288-0033danielnyc.com

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There are so many NYC restaurants that become so hyped that it is virtually impossible to live up to the expectations you have when you walk in the door. Fortunately for me, my expectations were kept in check by a few nay-sayers, which Daniel seems to have its share of.

That said, my experience lived up in spades. First, I actually found the decor to be quite a step up form many of its peers. The dining area is MUCH nicer than Per Se, Jean-Georges & Bouley. And the table we had was amazing, looking out over the entire room.

The canapes were just okay but four out of the six courses were excellent. From the unbelievable short ribs to the duck terrine to the Dover sole and lastly, to the finale, a chocolate, caramel, peanut volcano– Just incredible. Now, I know a lot of people expect that everything should be excellent at a place like this and for prices like these it probably should be, but that’s seldom been my experience and 4 of 6 is pretty damn good.

We also had the wine pairings which I highly recommend. The only one that seemed a touch off was the Dover sole, but so many were spot on and only made the meal that much more special.

And last but not least, the service. This might be my only major nit and I’ve seen other people say it too- The staff really comes off as if they are trying SO hard to be perfect- But they most certainly are not. Reaching across the table, dropping things, taking your plate before you’re done- They need to hire the guy who trains servers at Thomas Keller restaurants.

But apart from that- a must for high-end foodies. Easily one of the top ten meals in NYC.

5 teeth

Beyoglu

1431 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10028 • (212) 650-0850
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This and Pasha are my two favorite Turkish restaurants in the city. Although as I write this, I’m thinking Beyoglu might have the edge. First, the decor is fun and lively and the service is friendly- which is par for the course at pretty much every Turkish restaurant in the city. And then the bread and cacik comes (cacik is the Turkish version of the yogurt/garlic/herb concoction you find in Greek and Indian cuisine as well)… But their cacik is out of this world. Fresh, homemade yogurt so thick and creamy it’s like eating it right out of the cow. That, coupled with their warm, fresh baked Ramadan-style bread, and you’ll be in heaven before the food even arrives.

As for the mezzes (appetizers) they are all excellent. The spinach pie, the octopus- even the entrees were both solid. The only things I wish they had are mucver, lahmacun and midye dolma. But it’s been a while since I’ve been there, so maybe they’ve added them. Guess I’ll have to go back and see.

4 teeth